Game One Hundred Eleven – Cubs 6 Pirates 1
Rich Hill picked up where he left off against the Diamondbacks, was tremendous against the Pirates and earned his second consecutive big league victory. Hill threw 7 strong innings, allowed only 5 hits (1 was for extra bases), walked just 2 and struck out 9, a career high….6 in the first 4 innings.
The Cubs offense was not as sharp against Ian Snell as they had been on the homestand but they were effective. Ronny Cedeno had a huge day, going 2-3 that included a 3-run home run in the 4th inning. The Cubs completed the 11-game homestand with a series win against the Pirates to finish with a record of 8-3, the first time since 1998 (9-2) the Cubs had won 8 games or more at Wrigley. The Cubs are definitely playing their best ball of the season.
While two wins does not make a career, Hill needed to show the Cubs he was capable of back-to-back wins and not only did he accomplish that, he also made improvements from start to start. After the 8-inning performance against the Diamondbacks to throw 7 innings against the Pirates, cut down on earned runs, hits allowed and increase his number of strikeouts was what he needed to show the Cubs brass. Hill continued showing the same confidence that led to his first victory, worked fast and showed better command. Hill has been rumored to be a little hard headed but apparently the very gifted lefty has begun listening to those that can help him improve. In his first 5 starts of the season he allowed 24 runs on 29 hits in 22 2/3 innings (11.52 ERA) while walking 18, striking out 12 and giving up 6 home runs. In his last 2 starts he has given up 4 runs on 11 hits in 15 innings of work (2.40 ERA) while walking just 3, striking out 15 and allowing just 2 home runs. He is throwing strikes and keeping hitters guessing and the result is victories.
Ronny Cedeno started the scoring for the Cubs in the 3rd. Cedeno hit a little blooper to left that Jason Bay appeared to have caught, it was obviously a trap, the umpires discussed and Cedeno was awarded a single. Rich Hill failed to sacrifice Cedeno to 2nd but he stole 2nd with Juan Pierre at the plate. Pierre lined out to 3rd but Cesar Izturis came through with a big 2-out single to left to score Cedeno.
In the 4th Ramirez singled to Jack Wilson to the hole at short, Wilson could not throw out a hustling Ramirez, yes a hustling Ramirez, and he advanced to 2nd when John Mabry walked with 2 outs….Cedeno then homered to left. The Cubs added another run in the 5th thanks to a leadoff single by Izturis but in spite of some more adventures in base running. Izturis moved to 3rd on a bloop double by Ramirez and scored on a ground ball to Jack Wilson off the bat of Jacque Jones. Wilson went to 3rd with the throw, got Ramirez and Jones in run downs and recorded both outs. The last run of the afternoon was scored in the 8th, Ramirez led off the inning with a double, moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt by Jones and scored on a sacrifice fly by Angel Pagan.
Ramirez was 3-4 on the day with 2 doubles and 2 runs scored. Angel Pagan added another 2-3 day that included a double….Pagan had a very good homestand. He was 13-28 (.464) with a home run, 5 RBI’s, 8 runs scored, 3 walks and 3 stolen bases. The Cubs have found a way to win ballgames and while they are still 17 games under .500, they are showing improvement.
The Cubs have their first day off, on Monday, since July 13th; they start a 9-game road trip on Tuesday in Milwaukee. They will head to Colorado for 3 games starting on Friday and conclude the road trip with a 3-game series in Houston. Carlos Marmol is scheduled to take the mound on Tuesday in Milwaukee and this trip will not feature either Chris Capuano or Carlos Lee….maybe the Cubs could take a few from the Brew Crew.